In the past few years there has been a steady uptick in the number of people who are getting out and exploring the backcountry trails that lace their way through the peaks and valleys of Vermont. It seems like almost anyone in Vermont can name a friend, neighbor, or family member who has recently ventured out by foot, by bike, or skis. While there is no lack of agreement within the community that more people seem to be getting out on Vermont trail systems, it has been difficult to quantify the direct contributions to our local economy.
Thanks to a recent award of $20,000 through the 2015 USDA Rural Business Opportunity Grant Program, the Vermont Trails and Greenways Council will undertake a study to help tease out the economic impacts associated with trail-based and backcountry recreation in the state. The study will use a round table format, incorporating input from four organizations heavily involved in Vermont trail use and management – Catamount Trail Association, Green Mountain Club, Kingdom Trails Association, and the Vermont All-Terrain Sportsman’s Association.
The collaborative effort of this study will help us better understand the statewide benefits of recreational tourism in Vermont. Results will be shared with a variety of stakeholders including lawmakers, area businesses, governmental agencies, and local communities. This grant has provided a golden opportunity to help ensure sustainable expansion within the tourism industry at landscape, community, and economic scales. So what do we do in the meantime? Get out on skis, get your friends out, and continue to support local businesses!